Please note. This was intended to follow on from the post of January 8th but due to various problems is somewhat late, others will follow to complete this series and to answer all the questions.
Blade runner was a remarkable movie on many levels, it has it's critics but it was groundbreaking and it bought Cyberpunk and the future to the world who had never read a book on the subject.
I covered Roy batty and the importance of his dreams in the first part of this article HERE.
Now I'm going to cover how close we are to that world.
In the 70s as a gamer I played games that involved wandering into caves and dungeons, killing things and stealing their stuff, but other options arrived as Science Fiction jumped onto the gaming stage, at first jumping between the stars in games of Traveller, and a growing range of other Sci Fi games that covered every possible aspect of the genre. Including Cyberpunk.
The worlds and cultures spawned by writings of Gibson and many others. A blend of the punk under culture and the technology that made cybernetics commonplace, Cyberpunk.
Now in the early eighties Cyberpunk was set in the year 2000, then we got to the 90s and it jumped to 2020 because we were nearly at Y2K and we didn't have cyber limbs, AIs, flying cars or any of the things that made up the Cyberpunk world.
Today we are at the beginning of 2017, only three years from the world of Cyberpunk 2020, when powerful corporations and weakened nation states fight for power and cyber enhanced mercenaries and adventurers walk the shadows and lurk in the streets far below the boardrooms.
This came up in conversation on Bookface with a good friend of mine Adam Buxton, a man who is 'Almost' as big a Geek and Nerd as I am. We were talking about Roy Batty's birthday and how far we were away from the world of Bladerunner. So I asked Adam to produce a list of the things that he thought would be iconic in the Cyberpunk type world of Bladerunner.
1/ Living wage, the income for everyone not the national living thing.
2/ Personal assistants and drones
3/ Wearable tech
4/ Bio security
5/ wet wear, implants and augmentations
6/home production, i.e 3d printers laser cutters and new and interesting things of that ilk
7/ wearable electronic tattoos
8/ cottage networks and by this i mean the industry for private ISP adn wan groups
9/ Home automation
10/ Second life like existences on the net, Second life never was just a game where WoW is just a game, with the growth of VR where is second life's resurgence going to come from such that we finally lose the first members of the human race to the online world for good.
For those paying attention the pace of technology development has been increasing dramatically over the last few years, the increase in communications and computer processing power has led to an almost exponential rise in tech development. The technology improvements from the 30 years between the19 70s to 2000 dwarfed by the improvement from 2001 to 2010, from 2011 to 2015 they were greater again and by 2020 at this pace we will have increased at a rate far beyond that we saw between 2010 and 2015.
So much so in fact that it is becoming increasingly hard to keep up, if for no other reason than cutting edge becomes common place in a year and obsolete the year afterwards.
So where are we, how close are we?
1. Living Wage.
Not the Tory governments national living wage thing but the universal income, the money paid to all adults to allow them to pay rent or mortgage and pay for clothes and food each month.
The basic idea is that all citizens are paid weekly, biweekly or monthly regardless of who they are, 18 year olds and 80 year olds receive the payment. Most forms of benefits are removed as they are no longer applicable so Unemployment or housing benefits vanish though some illness support payments will remain. The system should be simpler to run since all the exceptions and specifics and means tests and box ticking is removed completely, everyone gets the payment.
You may have seen this being debated recently and a few nations are planning some experiments on the concept.
Outside of the pages of Science fiction this has been considered or tried in a number of places this century.
Namibia in Africa ran a two year long pilot project funded by the Namibian Basic Income Grant Coalition, who funded payments to the adults in two villages. Malnutrition dropped from 42% to 10% for children under the age of five, food poverty was reduced from 76% to 16%, payment of school and clinic fees increased to nearly 100%, school drop-outs were drastically eliminated, poverty related crime fell by 42% and very interestingly, small businesses in the village developed and earnings from it grew by 300%, indicating the much needed local economic development in rural areas. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights during her visit in October 2012 had singled out the BIG pilot project as “a positive example for which Namibia is renowned in the international discourse on poverty reduction”.
India has run two pilot projects since 2011 with overall positive results, the villages that recieved the funding have consistently spent more on food and healthcare, school exam results have improved more than 50% and many have been able to save money or invest in start ups for the first time.
Macau runs a scheme called the wealth partaking scheme which makes annual payments to all residents, the amount varies year on year but given the relative poverty of many residents it is a welcome sum of money for every household. This is to spread the wealth of the area among the residents of that area and over 600,000 people received money from this fund in 2013 which is the last year I saw figures for.
Oil rich nations such as Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia operate systems where Oil revenues is returned to the population via subsidised petrol, reduced bills and guaranteed jobs. Prior to his overthrow Gaddafi paid $50,000 to every newlywed couple, $5000 for every birth, petrol and food was heavily subsidised and all education, health and electricity was free. One result of this was a very high and growing level of education in Libya, WAS!
Canada ran a test scheme in the 70s called Mincome, this was a guaranteed annual income for the test subjects and was unconditional though the amount paid was reduced by a percentage as the subjects earned money from jobs so they lost anywhere from 35% to 75% of the money gained depending on how much the job bought in.
Parent availability increased with parents reducing their working time by 1-3%, parents of newborn children (primarily mothers) stopped working for the duration of the experiment, teenagers worked less but saw a matching increase in education levels as they were able to graduate from college without the time pressure of having a jpb to support themselves and their education. Hospital visits droped 8.5% and fewer work related accidents were reported along with a small decrease in mental health related hospital treatments.
Alaska pays every resident an annual sum based on the states oil income.
The Cherokee of North Carolina pay every tribe member several thousand dollars every six months, income from the casino on tribal lands. Studies of this have showed significant declines in petty crime such as theft, vandalism and fights, drug and alcohol abuse has reduced and increasing numbers of teenagers have graduated since the payments began.
Brazil has a private scheme in place which is running in a region called Qutinga Velho, this has been running since 2008 and provides a very small monthly payment of R$30. This is less than 5% of the monthly salary stipulated by the government and is not enough to live on but has been noted as having a clear impact, particularly in the slums and the rural areas when it goes a long way toward paying for food. The study has noted that there has been a clear improvement in nutrition within the area covered by the scheme and that living conditions, clothing and education have all showed an improvement as the money has spread through the communities.
The following countries have debated universal income, have political parties that support the idea or are planning tests.
South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK
Switzerland held a recent vote on bringing in a true Universal Income, with each resident recieving 2,500 Francs a month, this was defeated by a huge margin after the government and all major political parties opposed it.
Finland has started a test but it isn't a true universal income, rather it is a payment of 560 Euros a month to those selected to take part, these are all unemployed people and this payment replaces all forms of unemployment benefit so while it isn't enough to live on it does reduce admin, the payment will remain even after they find jobs so there remains a clear incentive to find work since the payment is far below what would be needed to actually live.
Iceland's new governing party, the Pirates, are fully in favour of universal income and should be putting a test scheme into place this year.
Canada, California, Kenya, Scotland, are all debating or proposing test schemes for this year or next year and the EU will be formally debating universal Incomes this year.
Now the concept of Universal Income is frequently attacked, generally by politicians or by the sort of people who earn six figure salaries and have never been poor in their lives, the usual arguments are that it is too expensive, no country can afford it, that the talk of mass unemployment and the permanent loss of jobs due to automation and technology are just scare stories and that this sort of thing has happened before and people always found jobs before.
The problem is those who speak out against Universal income most often do so from places of wealth and security, they don't see the problem because they think they are safe.
Technology is increasing at a pace that grows faster and faster, communication provides us with all but instant dissemination of data, researchers across the world work together on projects than even a few years ago would have been far slower. We advanced further between 2001 and 2010 than we did between the 70s and 2000, we advanced faster between 2011 and 2015 than we did from 2001 to 2010, the pace of advancement is terrifying and wonderful.
We are riding the tiger of technology, hanging on desperately knowing that while we stay on the future is wonderful but fearing that if we are thrown off we are done for.
The problem is that the number of those being thrown off are going to grow rapidly and soon and it's going to be the poorest who suffer. A million plus drivers, uber, taxis, lorries and vans, a decade or maybe less and those jobs will be gone forever, replaced by self driving vehicles and delivery drones. Call centres, helpdesks, a single program can sound like a human, answer questions and field multiple calls at once.
Retail, people shop locally because they want to see the items, try them on or test them, then they buy online, retail staff your numbers are going to fall. Accountants, you are going the way of the Dodo, lawyers, you too. We are more likely to need nurses than doctors as medical diagnosis and treatment is increasingly and more accurately carried out by computers and they aren't the only specialists to be facing an end to their careers in the near future.
Fifteen to twenty million jobs at least in the UK, gone in the space of a decade or so. But no matter what people say when the talk about Universal Income being impossible or unnecessary, there will be no new jobs for these people, because any new area of employment will be automated before they can retrain.
One final point to think about. 52 million adult citizens (18+) in the UK approximately. To pay them enough for rent or a mortgage, food, clothes and some spending on luxuries (outside of London or the very expensive areas) you are looking at approximately the tax free income level, call it £10,000 a year.
52 million people, £10kay a year, £520 Billion.
A staggering sum of money, impossible to pay.
Except that it isn't.
30 million people in employment (roughly, I know it's more), each receiving the first £10kay of their income from the government not the employer, then the employer pays on top of that so a job that currently pays £18kay would instead pay £8kay. The companies pay the equivalent to the government instead of to the employee. That's 30 million times £10kay
£300 Billion right there.
2017 estimate of pensions payout (which would be replaced by the Universal Income).
Social security payments for 2017, note that not all of this will be available since funding for specialist medical conditions will still need to be set aside.
Tax avoidance and Evasion by corporations that could be dealt with by switching to an Income within the nation tax rather than a profits declared tax.
This doesn't include a number of other changes such as improved health and nutrition, reduced stress etc lowering the stress and costs of the NHS. Increased income for shops, traders, manufacturers and the like and more money in circulation within the system rather than locked up in corporate profits and off shore accounts. A significant reduction in bureaucracy due to the massive simplification of the entire system of benefits and payments across government and local council levels (such as all but eliminating the DWP) which while it will lead to job losses will be of less impact than simply sacking hundreds of thousands of box tickers when their jobs are replaced by soft ware.
Seems to me we can do it, if we are of a mind to, if the political and social will to do it is there. Which is the big problem of course.
It's not that we can't do this, it is that we can't not do it, not if we want our society to survive and we are running out of time to get started because this won't happen overnight and if we continue listening to those who say it isn't needed or can't be done then it will be too late and in a matter of years we will be collapsing as as a society with tens of millions becoming not just unemployed but unemployable.
I've gone on too long and this blog is over 2,000 words so time to end. I'll cover the other nine points during the week ( I Hope ).
This should be plenty to think about for now.